Driver protest forces 28% of Cumberland County school buses to miss routes

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Cumberland County Schools officials said Tuesday morning that despite “numerous bus drivers” calling out sick, “many” buses are still taking students to school.

This comes as the district warned parents last week to be prepared for a bus driver “sick-out” today as some drivers planned to protest low pay and long hours.

CCS said 315 of its 438 buses were on the roads Tuesday morning, leaving 123 uncovered.

“The Transportation Department further noted that there were 265 drivers logged into the district’s GPS system. On a normal day, about 300 – 315 are logged in. Some drivers from other schools were able to assist schools without drivers,” said Lindsay Whitley, associate superintendent for Communications and Community Engagement.

Today’s absences come in the wake of the same move by bus drivers in Wake County over the last couple of weeks.

After Wake County school bus drivers organized a similar protest a couple of weeks ago, the school board approved a one-time $1,250 bonus for full and part-time drivers.

Cumberland County bus drivers have already received a bonus. A one-time, $1,000 bonus was included in their last paycheck.

Bus driver pay in Cumberland County starts around $12 an hour. The district has nearly 390 bus drivers who take 17,000 students to and from school every day.

Whitley wouldn’t say if another bonus is in the works, but that everything is under consideration.

“Nothing is off the table, but as a school system, as we are thinking about improving wages and increasing wages for employees, we have to think about the entire organization,” Whitley told CBS 17.

Kristi Harden, executive director of transportation for the Cumberland County School District, told CBS 17 she met with 114 bus drivers last week and money isn’t the drivers’ only concern.

“The greatest concern was not knowing specifically what student may have been impacted by COVID,” Harden said. “But due to HIPPA and other regulations, we’re not at liberty to just share. We have protocols in place — you’re notified if you’re considered a close contact, but in this case, you may not have been considered a close contact.”

Students who can’t find backup transportation to school today will be off the hook and excused from class.

“Worst case scenario, if a student had to be absent from school, they would not be counted absent in terms of it being an in excused absence. It would be counted as an excused absence,” Whitley said.

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